The 62-cent-per-pack federal tax increase on cigarettes -- earmarked to fund the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- has resulted in a surge in smokers looking for help to quit, the Washington Post reported April 3.
In recent weeks, tobacco "quit lines" nationwide have registered an increase in calls. A national telephone number, 1-800-QUITNOW, registered 203,374 calls in March, more than twice February's 91,316; in January, it received 76,685 calls. In Washington, D.C., the quit line got a record 131 calls the day before the tax went into effect; the same day a week earlier, it had 44 calls; a month earlier, 19.
"I'm in shock, quite frankly," said Debra Annand, director of health education services for the American Lung Association's District of Columbia office. "Obviously something happened to drive that call volume up."
At the association's office the shock over the price increase is evident, said counselor Robert Wright. The number of people seeking help in the past was three or four people each month -- now, that many inquire each day. "I just got a young guy who said he was told a pack cost $8, and he said, 'No way!'" Wright said.
Rhode Island now has nation's highest cigarette tax.
The nation's smallest state now has the highest tax on cigarettes in the U.S., levying $3.46 cents in taxes on every pack sold, the Providence Journal reported April 9.
A $1-per-pack increase in the state cigarette tax went into effect last week, on top of a hike in the federal tobacco tax from 39 cents per pack to $1.01 per pack that was implemented on April 1. Combined, the taxes are expected to drive the price of a premium-brand pack of cigarettes up from about $6.50 to about $8.35.
The state's Republican governor, Don Carcieri, proposed the tax increase as part of his plan to close a $357-million budget deficit, and the Democrat-controlled legislature approved the increase. The state also raised the tax on smokeless tobacco, snuff and pipe tobacco from 40 percent of the wholesale price to 80 percent.
Despite the tax increase, Rhode Island doesn't necessarily have the country's highest cigarette prices, since some other states impose a minimum price markup in addition to taxes.
Our Government driving these prices up on cigarettes, hitting people in the pockets, and yet lots of jobs are gone now, what is our great all mighty government going to say when many people are cut out of jobs when cigarette companys sales come to a big slow down. This is just one more way the government can push us around and shows how much they care about people making a living.